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The original item was published from 11/21/2016 11:32:00 AM to 11/21/2016 11:32:02 AM.

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Posted on: October 5, 2016

[ARCHIVED] Select Board Recommends a Yes Vote on Question 5 on the November 8, 2016 Ballot

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For Immediate Release Contact: Alisa V. Brewer (413) 549-5539 Paul Bockelman (413) 259-3002 (October 5, 2016) The Select Board recommends a Yes vote on Question 5 on the November 8, 2016 ballot. On November 8, 2016, Question 5 on the ballot is the Amherst elementary schools debt exclusion question, not to be confused with Question 2 on the charter school cap. Question 5 is on the November 8, 2016 ballot because the Select Board voted July 18, 2016 to save the cost of a separate ballot (approximately $12,000) or a separate election (approximately $20,000) and still meet the current project’s MSBA timeline. Participation is expected to be high due to the typical major election outreach by a variety of organizations to physically get voters to the polls, as well as the new availability of early voting. The Commonwealth does not allow debt exclusion ballot questions to include a dollar figure, so Question 5 reads: Shall the Town of Amherst be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to construct, originally equip and furnish two co-located elementary schools on the Wildwood site to educate all Amherst students in grades 2-6, including the cost of architectural design, project management and other incidental and related costs, as well as demolition of the existing building and other necessary site improvements? We support Question 5, the Amherst elementary schools debt exclusion override, because: • We have been discussing the need for several large capital projects for many years, in a variety of venues, including Select Board meetings, Joint Capital Planning Committee meetings, Budget Coordinating Group meetings, Four Boards meetings, the recent Five Boards meeting, and elsewhere. We also annually directed the Town Manager to provide updated assessments about the relative priority of addressing significant capital considerations, specifically including a new fire station, DPW facility, Jones Library renovations, Wildwood and Fort River elementary school renovations, and a downtown parking facility, also including in those Budget Policy Guidelines that we recognized that there are essential capital projects, long delayed and in the near future that may need a debt exclusion override. • We have excellent financial management policies in place. We strive to commit 8% of the local property tax levy to tangible assets with an estimated useful life of five years or more. Economies in health care costs, contract renewals, and operational efficiencies have prevented us from needing an override of Proposition 2 ½ to meet general operations needs since 2010. • Trying to pay for a bond for this entire project without a debt exclusion override would virtually preclude any other capital spending for several years, large or small. This would result in a significant degradation of our other facilities and equipment. • We have received projections for possible ways to finance this schools project, a relocated Fire station, a relocated DPW facility, and Jones Library renovations, over the next several years. We will pursue all four projects, but we do not intend to ask the voters for debt exclusions for all four projects. • The current five year capital plan includes two necessary expenses that will be avoided if this project is completed, the Fort River Roof $1,250,000 and the Wildwood Boiler $400,000. • Since 2007, the Select Board has been voting to authorize the Superintendent to submit Statement of Interest Forms for both Wildwood and Fort River to the MSBA. Among other deficiencies, the Fort River and Wildwood buildings are both based on the open classroom design that was very popular in the early 1970s, but does not meet the needs of students in 2016. • The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) grant will pay for more than half of the cost of the building. On September 28, 2016 MSBA projected their share at $33,716,673, reducing the Town’s share of the building cost to approximately $32,651,742. More information: Voting Information, including a Specimen Ballot: Finance Committee, including Financial Management Policies & Objectives: Big Capital Projects following Five Boards 09-14-16: School Project update at Select Board 07-18-16: School Project update at Select Board 06-20-16: Amherst Elementary School Building Project's FAQ's from Article 38 2016 Town Meeting Morris letter to Select Board 04-28-16 Select Board 05-02-16: Wildwood Elementary School Design and Construction website: Wildwood School Building Committee website:

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